You’d think a photographer would be constantly snapping photos, but the opposite is true for Helen Clegg. “I almost never take photographs in my day to day life,” she says. “I like to take the time composing images carefully until they’re perfect, then shooting only one frame, and moving on.”
A graduate of Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design in Auckland, Helen completed the four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Photography (now called Photo Media). “The course was so beneficial to me. Aside from the technical photographic skills that I learnt, Whitecliffe really helped me hone my creative aesthetic and develop the basis for my art practice moving forward.
“Whitecliffe was also fantastic in pushing me to be a self-motivator, so very important for continuing an art career after studies, as there won’t be anyone encouraging you or checking in with you to see how you’re doing. But also Whitecliffe really opened doors for me in the industry. From putting me forward for the NZAAT Emerging Artists Award, which I won, to the internship curating an exhibition, the relationships I built are ones that have continued long after my BFA studies finished.”
Helen grew up in the UK and moved to NZ when she was 20 via a small stint in France. She had studied Art up to Cambridge A Level in England, which was helpful, but the more important part of her entry application was a portfolio of recent work. “I spent a lot of time putting the portfolio together until I thought it was perfect.”
Helen shoots everything on analogue film with a fully manual 1973 Hasselblad medium format camera and describes her work as “sitting somewhere between - and challenging - traditional concepts of performance, self-portraiture and landscape photography.” Aside from her art career (she is planning an exhibition for later in the year and has a proposal for a major project in 2016), Helen manages a fine art and photographic printers in Auckland.
“The combination of pursuing a career as a photographic artist and managing an arts based business fits perfectly. I’ve always worked best by myself or in very small teams, and am passionate about the photographic and art world, so being able to work from both sides of the fence is ideal for me.”
Her advice to others hoping to make photography their profession is, “Photography is an incredible industry … It’s also incredibly hard work … So long as you have guts, vision, and passion though, go for it. You only live once. Just put your hand up for everything, try and get as much ‘unpaid’ work experience while you’re studying and receiving a student loan/allowance, so that once you graduate you’ll hit the ground running.”
KEY FACTS BOX:
Helen Clegg (26)
Wants to: Be a full-time artist.
Was: Studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Photo Media, at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design.
Now: Working as an artist while managing a fine art and photographic printers in Auckland.
(Story written by Sara Carbery of Leaving School Magazine)